Now You See It...
Now You Don't!
Maybe you’ve heard the term "biodegradable." It basically means something capable of being broken apart into simpler substances by natural biological processes.
But what are these biological processes that break some things down? Why do some things biodegrade more readily than others?
In this experiment, you’ll investigate the biodegrading process of commercial packing peanuts. Print out these pages and follow the directions to do this experiment at home. When you're done, come back to this page to test your newfound knowledge by answering the questions below. (No fair peeking at the answers before you've done the activity!)
Note: This experiment will take you about 30 minutes to 1 hour to do on the first day, and about 10-20 minutes each successive day over five days.
- 6 clear plastic or glass jars (minimum 1-cup volume)
- masking tape
- measuring cup for liquids
- eye dropper (you may wish to have more than one on hand)
- test tube (if you can’t find a test tube, use a thin, clear glass instead)
- large spoon or other stirring utensil
- 7 biodegradable packing peanuts made of starch (visit a packaging service store such as Mail Boxes Etc. if you don’t have starch peanuts at home)
- 7 polystyrene, or Styrofoam, peanuts (also available at a packaging store)
- iodine tincture solution (drugstore antiseptic version that contains iodine and iodide salts; should be brown)
- 1 1/2 cups aged tap water (let tap water sit out overnight to "age" and lose its chlorine)
- compost activator that contains live microorganisms (available at garden supply stores; be sure the label says it contains live microorganisms and not just extra nutrients)
- corn starch or flour
- slice of raw potato